Writing Workshop Witterings

We had the Apple writers’ workshop yesterday down in London. It follows the Milford rules. I always find it useful; however, it did remind me of some general thoughts about workshops that had been nagging away for a while now.

Take three sentences (bits, sections, whatever) that are easy, medium and tricky. A reader will have no issue with the first, will expend thought on the second and put in, to get out, on the third and have a pleasant, involving experience; however, a critic at a workshop will have no issue with the first, will spot a chance to make a comment on the second and declare the whole things confusing when they reach the third. The reader uses mental effort to read, reading isn’t viewing that you can let wash over you, but the critic uses that mental faculty to find fault. It’s the nature of the beast.

Another issue is the episodic nature. The ‘Apple Effect’ is an expression we’ve coined for ourselves to cover that issue of forgetting what the hell happened two, or even one, chapters ago, but there’s a… ‘Banana Effect’ too. For example, people had issues with my first sentence not delivering on its promise. Was that a genuine issue or simply that I effectively snatched the book away from them before they got to that bit? I had an issue with another writer’s contribution because it didn’t seem to me to have much of an ongoing plot: but they that’s because last episode’s dangerous moment lead nowhere (banana), and in this episode it doesn’t expand heavy-handedly upon the danger (i.e. cope with the potential apple). If I read it in one sitting, or over a couple nights before going to sleep, would I be delightfully frustrated that the characters were off doing something else when they should be dealing with the danger!?

There was a writers group recently that was talking about the way readers read and writers read. Is there a difference, yes? They also concluded that once a writer, you can never read as a reader again. I don’t agree with that. I don’t find it an issue to switch mode, but I can’t do both at the same time. So, at a workshop, we are getting writers’ opinions, not readers’ reactions.

Again, nature of the beast. I don’t think anything can be done about it, but it ought to taken into account when considering all the comments.

At the ‘writing for performance’ group I run, we have actors read the scripts and an audience that reacts, after which the writers critique, so it sort of, when done properly, gets around this issue. You get both the ‘reader’ (audience) and the ‘writer’ comments.

Anyone have the same, or different, experience?


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